At the end of this video NY Governor, Andrew Cuomo, criticizes the CDC for "not letting" the state of New York and other laboratories test for COVID-19.

What did he mean by that? Does the CDC have some legal authority to prevent the State of New York and other private laboratories from testing for COVID-19?

  • 1
    I'm not sure what Cuomo would be talking about, the CDC indicates all 50 States (and DC) are testing for COVID-19.
    – Ron Beyer
    Mar 13, 2020 at 12:33
  • @RonBeyer: The video was posted five days ago. So it's possible the CDC changed their policy between then and now to allow states to do testing. Mar 13, 2020 at 12:35
  • Maybe, however look at the graph on that page, the number of public testing sites (state run) is much higher than the blue CDC testing. It doesn't break it down by State, but public testing sites outpaced CDC-only at the end of February. Its unlikely that the CDC said "OK California, you go ahead, but you, New York, you have to wait".
    – Ron Beyer
    Mar 13, 2020 at 12:37
  • @RonBeyer: My read of the graph confirms the premise of my question. For about one month, between Jan 17 and Feb 18, the only place any tests were conducted in the U.S. was at the CDC. No state or private labs did any tests for that thirty day period. That's probably the restriction Cuomo was describing and also the basis of this question. Mar 13, 2020 at 12:49
  • Do you have any reason to believe that the limitation was legal rather than being technical or bureaucratic?
    – Dale M
    Mar 13, 2020 at 21:32

1 Answer 1


The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) are both US federal agencies that have overlapping authority over medical testing in the US. In general federal rules prevail over state rules, so yes the CDC can stop the state of New York from testing for COVID-19 if the CDC has not approved the testing protocol.

The primary reason behind the rules is to ensure that any tests provided to the public are reliable. A secondary reason it to ensure that the testing development process followed guidelines on medical ethics. There is a set of procedures for Emergency Use Authorization, but there have been widespread complaints that even that process has grown too cumbersome and time consuming.

There has been more extensive coverage of the CDC and FDA stopping/delaying testing in Washington state.

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